Skip to World Faiths Development Dialogue Full Site Menu Skip to main content

An Interfaith Dialogue on Religious Responses to COVID-19 in Bangladesh

Male madrasa students standing together in Bangladesh

The COVID-19 crisis threatens to unravel substantial elements of the development progress Bangladesh has made over the last decade. Without overstating negative prospects, it is important to take into account the devastating social and economic repercussions that the present pandemic is having on one of the world’s most densely populated countries. Many faith-inspired organizations are responding in myriad ways and have a pulse on the situation on the ground. An important question is thus how faith-inspired development actors view their roles in this unique crisis and how they are responding to the social and economic threats and challenges.

Religious Responses to Domestic Abuse During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tea light candles lit with blurred background

Ironically, data coming in and the absence of reported incidents both point to clear increases in domestic violence as families, happy and otherwise, are forced by the COVID-19 crisis into lockdown. Stresses rise as people are forced to remain with abusers, putting personal safety at risk especially as the pandemic has crippled many support programs. Religious communities have taken on this issue more directly in recent years, spurred by both knowledge that domestic abuse is so omnipresent and by abuse cases within religious communities themselves. So how are religious communities responding to domestic abuse in the face of the COVID-19 crisis?

A Tightly Linked Triad: Women, Faith, and Peace

Women at a political rally in Lahore

May 29 is the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, and the UN Secretary General has focused this year on women’s roles. He and the UN system overall, including the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, are thus underlining a longstanding effort to highlight women’s roles in the quest for peace. In October 2000, the Security Council of the United Nations adopted Resolution S/RES/1325 on women, peace, and security, spurred by stunningly low numbers of women visibly involved in peace negotiations and also in the processes that surround them. Since 2000, there has been inching progress, but women’s roles, crucial and varied as they are, tend to be largely invisible. Too often the focus on women is sadly as victims, of sexual violence but also as those who suffer from the harsh disruptions that go with conflicts, spending protracted years as refugees.

Implications of COVID-19 on Ethno-Religious Tensions in Sri Lanka

Implications of COVID-19 on Ethno-Religious Tensions in Sri Lanka

The COVID-19 pandemic has wide ramifications for Sri Lanka, beyond health and economic constraints. It has fueled simmering ethno-religious tensions, making it clear that the country’s reconciliation process is far from complete. How have ethno-religious tensions come to the fore during the pandemic and what are the implications for the reconciliation process and for the roles of religious communities in addressing it?

Faith, Women, and Human Rights: A Global Dialogue on COVID-19

Woman and child sit in front of colorful textiles

Among the many discordant realities of the COVID-19 crisis are its very different repercussions for women. Their mortality is lower than men’s, while large majorities of frontline “carers” are women. Family and home are a source of comfort and refuge but also the site of rising domestic violence. Despite deficits of women’s leadership in many arenas, women leaders are singled out as outstanding examples in this crisis. Contradictory images about religious responses contrast patriarchal behaviors with selfless and courageous women’s action to support the most vulnerable in society.

COVID-19 and Religious Freedom in Latin America

Facade of a church in Brazil

The COVID-19 crisis and especially lockdown policies have highlighted a range of questions about government regulation of religious bodies in different Latin American countries. Issues arise in what is appreciated as a situation without precedents, a first epidemic crisis striking simultaneously all parts of the world and all communities. That explains why much is happening on the fly, but actions evoke some issues that are long-standing. A webinar with experts from Chile, Argentina, and Brazil on May 14 explored experience and issues. Four highlights were (a) wide agreement on the need to act in the face of the pandemic, (b) wide variations in situations among and within countries, (c) that religious freedom must not be viewed as optional in any sense is often poorly appreciated by governments, and (d) what the participants saw as significant and probably unnecessary overstepping of government interventions with religious communities. Across the region, the wide incidence of poverty, wide inequalities, and patterns of violence especially against women are accentuated by the crisis. Alfred Stepan’s “twin tolerations,” where state respects religion and vice versa, was highlighted as an important guiding principle.

COVID-19 Guidance for Religious Communities and Leaders

People wearing masks walk outside

In March 2020, the Religious Responses to COVID-19 project launched the "Faith and COVID-19: Resource Repository," a digital platform that collects and communicates reliable information related to religious actors in the coronavirus crisis and response. The repository organizes resources so they can be quickly found and used by policymakers, development practitioners, and faith actors who seek to work together in the COVID-19 response. Since the repository was launched, we have seen a steady stream of new guidance documents prepared and published by a range of organizations and networks. Critical reflection on COVID-19 guidance for religious communities and leaders sheds further light on the complexities of faith engagement in the pandemic. 

Religious Action on COVID-19: Efforts in the Field

A sign warning of COVID-19 in a German church

Religious communities and institutions are playing important and varied roles in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and response. Although physical distancing measures have altered religious life across traditions, faith actors continue to provide essential financial as well as spiritual support for those in need around the world. The humanitarian work of religious communities and faith-inspired organizations will be central in the pandemic, as already vulnerable people, such as refugees and forced migrants, are even more susceptible to coronavirus. A closer look at specific examples of religious action on the COVID-19 crisis will help ongoing efforts to better integrate faith voices in public health response to the pandemic.

Preference to the Poor: Priority Ethics for Development Leaders

Scales of justice

Communities around the world are responding to COVID-19 as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank hold their annual spring meetings on April 14–17, 2020. Senior Fellow Katherine Marshall highlights priorities for development leaders attending the meetings, urging that the needs of poor and vulnerable people worldwide should take priority.

UNHCR High Commissioner Issues Challenge to Religious Leadership on Forced Migration

Eight people sit on a panel at the Peace With No Borders Conference, September 2019

Filippo Grandi, the high commissioner for the United Nations Refugee Organization (UNHCR), addressed a large interreligious gathering in Madrid in September 2019 (the annual Prayer for Peace organized by the lay Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio). He challenged himself with a question: “What am I, as an international institution official, doing here, in this religious setting?” He responded that his presence and this partnership have vital importance. The collective response to today’s forced displacement crisis is, he emphasized, a barometer of how the world’s institutions overall are dealing with peace and conflict, borders between countries, and relationships among different communities.